I was born in Bethlehem, Palestine on February 20, 1991 to Mohammad and Lamia Amro. My parents expected the best from me. This caused me to excel academically from a young age. When I was a sophomore in high school, I was selected to be an international foreign exchange student. I was elated because I was going to finally see the America that had starred in all of my favorite movies. But where was I going? Would I be heading to the city that never sleeps: New York? Or maybe I could spend my academic year in the Windy City: Chicago. Maybe I could create memories that could only stay in the city of Las Vegas! I eagerly awaited the announcement of where my cultural learning would take place in the states. However, my excitement came to a screeching halt when I read the name of a state I had never heard of before- Alabama. Little did I know, Alabama was the epitome of racial oppression, even in present day. My work was definitely cut out for me.
I arrived in the fall of 2006 and quickly realized that I could not live in this state for long. I planned to return to Palestine and go back to the life I knew. I lived in an apartment where I shared a bedroom with 2 young children as well as another foreign exchange student. There were four of us sleeping on two beds in a house with no heat and hardly ever any hot water. This made the hot summers in Palestine look like a Florida vacation. However, I later met a family that took me in and gave me a much bigger room and a bed of my own. Things were looking up, except for the fact that I shared the house with the family’s mentally disabled aunt. We got along great! Until one day she decided she no longer wanted me in her house and decided to chase me with a knife! The only person’s number I had in my phone was a guy I had met a few weeks earlier- Corey. Corey and I didn’t like each other very much, but I knew that he was a loyal guy. Corey ended up letting me move into his house, and even became my legal guardian while in the states! This experience dramatically changed my life, as well as my perception and tolerance of others, mainly because Corey and I hated each other in the beginning. After moving in with Corey, I slept in the same room with him on his couch. We spent many nights comparing Islam to Christianity, talking about racism and music. However, our deepest conversations stemmed around a subject that we both were passionate about- food. He soon started referring to me as his brother and showed me that not all Americans are the same. Corey got the school to allow me to go to prom, go to Panama City Beach for Spring Break, attend concerts, church meetings, late night movie screenings and even introduced me to the culinary delicacy known as Taco Bell. Saying goodbye at the summer of 2007 was not an easy thing to do, even when just a few months prior, I was begging to go back home.
I realized during my visit in 2006 that no two people are alike. However, it didn’t stop at someone’s nationality, it also extended to their religious beliefs. Famous and influential musician John Lennon said it best when he said, “I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Moses, Jesus and Mohammed and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”
These spiritual leaders had many messages, verses and directions. However, every word ever spoken by them was deeply rooted by one simple message – love. Now I believe change can happen and when you refuse change for humanity, you’re putting your own selfish agenda before anyone else. It was also John Lennon that helped coin the phrase “all you need is love.” This message is so simple, yet so influential. All you need is love. Love is intangible. It can not be physically touched, but can be felt. Love does not have an image, but can be seen. It can not make a noise, but can be heard. Love is the most complex, confusing, terrifying yet gorgeous and fascinating thing that will be a part of this Earth for eternity…as long as we let it. To quote another wise man, Master Yoda, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” My experience in 2006 taught me that love can make us brave. Love can bring joy and can end the suffering